Let’s say you have a friend and she invites you over for drinks and dinner. When you get to her house, your friend announces that, before drinking and eating can commence, she would like to take a few minutes to talk to you about, say, her religion, or the Amway products she sells.
You’re probably annoyed. You don’t enjoy being invited to someone’s house for fun only to have to suffer through hearing about something that doesn’t interest you. Right? That would be my response, for sure. I’d be annoyed and offended. I probably wouldn’t hang out with this person again because I don’t have time for people who want to talk at me in an effort to promote something I don’t care about.
I feel the same way about sponsored content on blogs and on Twitter. (I’m seeing more and more of it on Twitter, with posts hashtagged #ad showing up in my stream every day.) (And now it’s on Pinterest, too! I just had to unfollow an entire board that was sponsored by Clorox. WTF is this shit?) As a blogger, you’ve invited me into your world and I think it’s going to be cool but then you bore me with sponsored content, giveaways, or product reviews. I scroll through this crap waiting to get to the fun part, but when I do, I’m not all that excited to be there any more. You’ve bored me, and you’ve made me feel like your desire to make money overrides my desire to read interesting content. (My strongly held belief is that sponsored content can never be interesting.)
Here’s the other thing. I see commercials on tv (although I only watch commercials during live sporting events — I record everything else and fast forward through the commercials). I see ads in magazines and hear them on the radio. I see them on buses and billboards and on the walls of the baseball stadium. I experience advertising pretty much everywhere I go.
I like blogs that are a respite from the constant barrage of “brands,” as I guess we’re calling companies and corporations now, trying to sell me shit. I like blogs that are real, that are written by someone who blogs just because he or she likes to write. These blogs are different from the ones whose authors are trying to make a buck. They’re authentic and interesting (and, more often than not, very small).
I don’t begrudge you your “right” to make a living or supplement your income by blogging. But I don’t have to read it. I don’t have to participate in the endless cycle of people trying to make money by advertising and promoting stuff. Honestly, I find it pretty gross that so many of our online interactions with each other are peppered with crap content designed to make money for someone. So much of what people are putting out on the internet contains the message:
Hey you! Your life would be better and more awesome if you just bought this thing!
Well no, it wouldn’t. My life has gotten better since I’ve stopped buying so many things, since I’ve realized that true happiness comes from (among other things) rejecting the constant push to buy more and have more.
It all makes me nostalgic for the old days of LiveJournal, where people blogged just because they wanted to blog. Now we have bloggers who say shit like, “Sponsored content on my blog makes writing here possible!” No. You know what makes writing on your blog possible? Sitting your ass down and writing on your blog. It’s entirely possible to do even if you don’t make money doing it.
If I can sound like an old hippie for a minute (if I didn’t already), I’m worried about the ridiculous consumerist, materialist culture in which we are living. I think it’ll be pretty cool when more people get sick of it and reject it. Hey you! Your life would be better and more awesome if you stopped listening to people who want to sell you shit you don’t need!